“We didn’t have the bandwidth.”
For the longest time, an Xbox handheld used to be one of the things that many would speculate on- surely, the success of Nintendo in the field, as well as Sony with the PSP, meant that it was only a matter of time before Microsoft would jump in with their own Xbox branded handheld, right?
But that never happened- instead, the handheld market peaked with the DS and PSP, only to crater with the 3DS and Vita, losing marketshare to smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft missed the chance to enter a lucrative market. Why did this happen? Was an Xbox handheld simply never on the cards?
In an interview with IGN, former Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach explained that Microsoft definitely once had plans to make an Xbox handheld device- but that the launch of the Xbox 360, and the general disarray and lack of focus in the Xbox division meant that the hypothetical Xboy never came to fruition.
“There were definitely drawings,” Bach said. He shared that Microsoft felt as though they needed the Xbox to be a part of the ecosystem, but they didn’t have the bandwidth or the focus to put out a device in that category. In the long run, though, he also feels that it turned out to be for the best.
“For us it was a focus issue and as it turned out strategically it was a smart decision, but that’s somewhat accidental,” Bach said. Instead, by focusing on the Xbox 360, Microsoft could have an industry leading console, instead of having to fight a war on two fronts with a console and a handheld.
I personally would have welcomed an Xbox handheld- who knows how it might ave turned out? The DS, PSP, and their respective successors went on to be among my favorite systems of their respective generations- I’d have loved to see how Microsoft would have tackled the portable market, too.